The board of Western Springs College Nga Puna o Waiorea is delighted to announce that acting principal Ivan Davis has been confirmed as the school’s new principal. Following the announcement of the retirement of existing principal Ken Havill at the end of this year, the board of trustees went through a rigorous selection and recruitment process, says chair John Loof.
“We were flattered that so many high quality candidates applied for this position and it was a difficult decision. But in the end, the board felt Ivan’s experience with the school as both acting principal and associate principal, together with his vision for the future, were key factors in determining his appointment. “Ivan has the trust and respect of his colleagues and this is very important as Western Springs College goes through a time of transition brought on by the total rebuild of the school.”
Most people will know Ivan from his 14 years on the senior management team. He talks about his vision for the school:
When did you come to Western Springs College?
For many years I was a social studies and geography teacher, working on the North Shore. I was appointed deputy principal at Springs in 2002, and promoted to associate principal in 2009.
You worked under Ken Havill for more than a decade. What is the most important lesson you learnt from him?
One of the strengths of Springs is the people it attracts – teachers who are passionate about their students and the craft of teaching. Ken is remarkable in terms of the amount of time and care he takes over the appointment of staff – researching, meeting, interviewing. If the field isn’t strong enough he is prepared to leave a post unfilled – however challenging that might be for running the school. That won’t change.
Are you daunted about leading the largest school rebuild in NZ history?
I’m not daunted by the rebuild itself. One of the really smart things the planners have done is locate the new school so as to provide minimum disruption for the existing school. We can keep the school running throughout with only nine additional relocatables on site. The challenge isn’t the build itself, but transitioning 105 teachers and 1450 students to a whole new way of teaching and learning – in time for the new school opening at the start of 2019. That’s a huge challenge, but also a huge opportunity to lift students’ thinking, understanding and productivity to the next level. The new buildings will help facilitate this. .
What are your plans to achieve this new pedagogy?
The first initiative is a 2017-2018 scholarship fund for teachers to go out into other schools, both in New Zealand and overseas, to study flexible and innovative learning environments. What works? What doesn’t? How best to get students and teachers working collaboratively? I believe that in 50 years’ time we will look back at single-cell classrooms and be amazed that we took 30 adolescents and shut them in a room with a teacher and said that was the best way to learn.
What else are you excited about with the rebuild?
Western Springs College Nga Puna o Waiorea has a tradition of partnership with the community. Building TAPAC is a great example. Now we have the opportunity to do the same around developing sports facilities, which could be used by the school during the day, and by others in the evenings and weekends. One of the advantages we have is plenty of land on our site, and we are actively talking to Auckland Council and local sports clubs about possibilities.
Springs is already one of the top-performing schools in the country academically. What still needs to be done?
The next step is to see our students achieving more merit and excellence endorsements in their NCEA subjects, and to increase the opportunities for students to take scholarship subjects. I’d like to see the option for more students to work above their year level in some subjects in years 11 and 12, to free them up to do scholarship in year 13.
When you started at Springs, it was a 580-student school. Now the roll is 1450, with the option to go to 2500 with the rebuild. Does that worry you?
We know the demographic bulge going through local primary schools now will hit Western Springs College Nga Puna o Waiorea in 2020-2021. On the positive side, that gives us a big opportunity to expand the curriculum; to offer subject choices and flexibility of options that isn’t possible in a smaller school. On the other side, we need to be careful we don’t lose the special character the school has always had – what teachers call its “gritty vibe”.
What are your thoughts about the co-governance model between WSC and Ngā Puna o Waiōrea?
I think it’s one of Ken Havill’s greatest legacies. The way this school runs is a true embodiment of the spirit of the Treaty of Waitangi and the notion of partnership between Maori and Pakeha. My vision is to expand it so we see the reciprocity between the two schools operating both ways. We will be working towards more opportunities for English medium students to benefit from the Nga Puna o Waiorea curriculum, both in terms of te reo and other subjects..
Enough about the school. What about you?
I’m originally from Hamilton, and I live on the North Shore (no one’s perfect). I have two daughters, one in her third year at Elam, and one at Takapuna Grammar. My wife is a florist by training, but works as a teacher aide at Belmont Primary. My dad was in the Navy and I’ve sailed since I was a kid. We sold our boat earlier this year, and that’s the first time I’ve not had a boat of some sort in the family since I was about ten.